Light Reading

Lamps With The Simple Line Of Polished Wood

Posted on April 14, 2019 by Maurice Robertson | 0 Comments

       

                                 Hand Turned in Scotland 100 Years Ago

There is nothing like the polished sheen on antique wood, lovingly polished with bee’s wax for the past hundred, or even, the past two hundred years.  Over this long period of time a rich patina is produced, the fine sheen of polished wood. This patina can never be successfully reproduced but is only the result of elbow grease, wax and time!

Treen is a generic name for the small to medium, functional handmade objects made of wood.  Hence treen is distinct from furniture, chairs, tables etc.  The very word is antique! and is, in fact, a Middle English word from the 13th century, when treen meant tree or wood.

The word is still in common use to describe small objects made in hand turned wood.  Wood, of course, being the major raw material for common domestic objects with turning and carving being the key skills.

Some rare examples of treen exist from the 15th century with most antique pieces being made in the 19th century.  These were made prior to the introduction of cheap metal wares and finally, plastics.  As the 19th century progressed, the “old fashioned” treen pieces were discarded for the new wares.

A Classic Pair Of Late 18th Century English Mahogany Lamps - Circa 1790

G085 A Classic Pair of Late 18th Century English Mahogany Lamps - Circa 1790

I have found that it is men who particularly appreciate the simple lines of polished wood.  Traditional attitudes have generally placed interior design in the feminine compartment, but attitudes change and men are now equally accepted as partners in sharing an interest in interior decoration. 

From a purely male perspective, men will see table lamps as a subject that allows for creative expression.  Lamps for the den, for the office, for a library or simply to add to the pleasure derived from their living space.  There is a real pleasure in owning something that is unique and beautiful while remaining a useful asset to a family. 

Antique pieces such as table lamps, can also do a lot for a modern interior, adding a much warmer element when integrated into a décor.  It is quite often a surprise to discover just how “at home” an antique piece can look in a modern interior.  A quality antique piece will not only reflect superb workmanship from an earlier time, but will also increase in value. 

© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2019

                        

 

Are There Really Bones In Bone China?

Posted on April 14, 2019 by Maurice Robertson | 0 Comments

A Spode Bone China Saucer Dish - Circa 1810

When we speak of bone china, does it ever raise the question, however fleetingly, "I wonder if this cup I’m drinking from, actually contains bones"?  The short answer is "yes"!  But we can’t leave it there, so on to the long answer …..

Conventionally, the development of bone china is attributed to Josiah Spode (1754-1827), who introduced it in 1797, but like many stories, bone china goes back a lot further than that.

We must first acknowledge China as the first country to produce porcelain, a prototype or early type of porcelain, about the year 1000.  About 400 years later, examples of Chinese porcelain arrived in Europe.  From then on and right up until the early 18th century, the race was on to discover the “secret mystery” of how to make porcelain.

The earliest recorded attempts were in late 16th century Italy, in the Medici ruled city of Florence, where experimental porcelains were produced by mixing powdered glass with clay in an attempt to reproduce the tantalizing translucency of the Chinese examples acquired.

Further attempts were made in the late 17th century at Rouen in France, until porcelain, at last, was successfully made at Meissen during the first early years of the 18th century.  This was known as high fired or hard paste porcelain in the Chinese manner.

Up until the mid 18th century, there is no doubt that the most beautiful European porcelains were produced at the French factories, such as St Cloud, Chantilly and Mennecy.  Many are the writers who describe these porcelains as “delicious” and “luscious”, the French factories, some would say, peaking with the famous porcelains of Vincennes and on to Sevres in 1756.

These famous French porcelains were all soft paste, also known as “artificial porcelain” which was produced by the addition of powdered glass to china clay, as in the early Florentine, Medici porcelain.   Powdered glass was used as a substitute for feldspathic rock, also called “petuntse”.  This naturally occurring silicate fuses under a high temperature changing into a kind of natural glass.

However, it is not possible to completely outline the story of bone china without first looking at the development and contribution of English soft paste porcelain.

The first mention of soft paste porcelain, (1742), was by Thomas Briand, a speaker and member of the prestigious British Royal Society.  Briand delivered a paper on porcelain to The Society and it is now believed to have been based on the French, St Cloud formula.

The first English factory to produce soft paste porcelain in the French manner was Chelsea, established in 1743.  Chelsea, true to the French style, used powdered glass to produce its early, superb and now, incredibly rare porcelain.   

The two partners who established the Chelsea factory were Thomas Briand, (the same Thomas Briand who delivered the lecture to the British Royal Society) and a French silver smith, both of French Huguenots descent, hence the connection to St Cloud!

We now arrive at bone ash porcelain or the more widely known term “bone china”.

Bone china does indeed contain bones!  Lots of bones, usually cattle bones!  The raw bone, left after cleaning, is heated in a kiln to about 1000°c, at which temperature the bone is reduced to a fine white ash.  It is then finely ground with water before being blended with crushed feldspar and china clay.  Bone china, in fact, consists of a remarkable 50% bone ash, 25% feldspar and 25% of the finest china clay.            

Bone ash porcelain was first introduced at the London Bow factory circa 1750, with Chelsea following circa 1755.  The bone ash mix produced better molding properties and greater stability.  These factors substantially reduced kiln loss, which caused great problems for most of the 18th century factories.

Here is where we meet Josiah Spode I, who in 1767, after a seven year apprenticeship and a number of other partnerships, opened his own factory.  His son, Josiah Spode II, now having inherited his father’s factory, is attributed with the refinement and perfection of bone china.  (The Spode factory still stands on this very same site and holds the title of “the oldest porcelain producing factory still standing on its original site”).

Spode's great contribution was to experiment with and discover the ideal porcelain body.  In short, he took the standard hard paste porcelain mix of china clay and feldspar, based on traditional Chinese porcelain and added refined bone ash.  This process totally transformed the English ceramic industry and by the end of the 18th century, with one exception, no soft paste porcelain was made in England.

Bone china became and is now the standard English porcelain which has been an exclusive English product ever since.  Bone ash has rarely been used outside of England, with the US and European manufacturers preferring the hard paste porcelain in the Chinese manner.  It is the bone ash which gives bone china its strength and whiteness, with a remarkable translucency -  and there are no bones about that! 

©Antique Lamp Shoppe 2018

Posted in bone china

"Ich bin ein Berliner" JFK - A Berlin Lamp Of Neo-Classic Empire style

Posted on April 14, 2019 by Maurice Robertson | 0 Comments

The Berlin porcelain factory was opened in 1751 and after an unfortunate range of poor management decisions over a period of 12 years, was finally purchased in 1763 by Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia.    

All European art, architecture, painting, furniture, dress and design, including silver and porcelain, evolved into one of the most smart and stylish periods of design ever seen.  The style swept Europe with its influence seen from London to St Petersburg including the United States of America.

By 1830, Prussia was ruled by Friedrich Wilhelm III and styles had changed.  This period saw the final days of the sharp, early 19th century, neo-classic style.  Born in the mid 1760's, this very smart era of design was spread across a time line of about 65 years.  At the closing period however, The Berlin Royal Porcelain Manufactory continued to produce these elegant neo-classic styles.

This style has never been surpassed, characterised by its understated simplicity, restraint and purity of form.  We should also remember when we speak of changes in design and style in terms of time periods, i.e., the neo-classic period 1765-1830; we are not referring to an exact date, as these styles simply evolved into new forms of design. 

Illustrated is a late neo-classic style Berlin lamp produced around 1830.  The style defined by its simplicity of line, harmonious proportions and visual balance.

The lamp, in-the-white and sensitively painted with two rustic character subjects.  Painted, in monochrome enamel, en grisaille, a painters’ technique by which an image is painted in shades of grey, giving the image a modelled appearance, creating the illusion of sculpture.  One side with a young peasant girl on her way to market, a basket on her arm and a second balanced on her head, the reverse with a little boy, a wooden spinning top and string in hand.

The lamp rim, neck and square based plinth, gilded.  The lamp with moulded and applied handles, in both bright and matte gilding.  The elegant handles showing elements of Egyptian influenced design, the lamp having had some repair to the handles.  The lamp standing on a custom designed and made, gold plated, square bronze base, stepped, with an inverted curve.  Overall height (including shade) 25"/63cm

An antique lamp can be a lot more than just a source of interior lighting; it can also be a work of art with a major contribution to the classic/eclectic interior.  Antique lamps with a “presence” can add to our visual appreciation of life.  An antique lamp can be seen and appreciated in just the same way as a picture, which can add so much to enrich our lives.

The Berlin factory flourished throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until 1944 when allied bombing destroyed it, after which production was moved to the city of Selb.  During the period 1955-1957, the whole production was then moved back to Berlin, where today, this factory produces some of the finest porcelain in Europe.

© Antique Lamp Shoppe  2018

 

Posted in Berlin Lamp

Porcelain For The Malay Straits - Nyonya Lamps

Posted on April 14, 2019 by Maurice Robertson | 0 Comments

 

A Nyonya Lamp - The Peony and the Phoenix 

A boldly coloured Chinese baluster shaped lamp. The lamp enamelled with a pale, pea green ground colour and decorated with branches of shaded, rose pink Peony flowers, buds and foliage. The ground with two yellow framed ogival shaped reserves enamelled with a distinctive, bright, rose pink ground.  The reserved ground enamelled in bright colours with a Phoenix in flight, hovering above branches of shaded Peony flowers.  Chinese art is highly symbolic and what could simply be seen as decorative, is rarely so.

The Peony and the Phoenix are two such artistic symbols.  The Peony flower is one of the four flower emblems, signifying summer, love and affection.  It also indicates a hope for greater advancement and is a synonym for nobility and gracefulness.

The Phoenix is an ancient emblem, signifying goodness and benevolence. It was used to symbolise imperial power, specifically the female aspect, not only signifying the Empress of China, but on her wedding day, the bride.

The Phoenix is also a symbol of high achievement, as this bird can fly the closest to heaven, therefore making it a divine and auspicious symbol.  The neck of the lamp with applied Buddhist lion handles. The shoulder of the lamp with moulded and applied pairs of hornless dragons in pink and green enamels.

Nyonya, Peranakan and Straits Chinese are all names used for the descendants of early Chinese traders, mostly from the Fukien province of China, who can trace their migration to the 14th century.  Southern Malaya, Malacca, Penang and Singapore Peranakan, all translate from Malay as descendant, Babas referring to male descendants and Nyonya to female descendants.

Historically, the Malay Peninsula was divided into small kingdoms, or Sultanates and it is to the kingdom of Malacca that we must look to find the origin of the Nyonya Chinese communities.  Retracing our steps to the 15th century, we find ourselves in the Imperial court of the Ming dynasty’s Yongle Emperor who appointed Zheng He to lead a vast navel fleet of 317 ships with a crew of 28.000! 

Zheng was a monumental explorer, mariner, diplomat and admiral of the Chinese fleet and is still revered in modern China.  From official Chinese records, we know that in the year 1411, Parameswara, the King of Malacca and a retinue of 540 officials travelled to the Chinese Imperial court to pay homage to the Yongle Emperor.  

Malacca became a protectorate of the Emperor which saw the rapid development of the Malaccan kingdom, its geographical position ensuring its development into a major trade crossroad between China and India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.  Malacca became an important trade port and soon evolved into a very rich state.

With the enormous volume of trade and traffic between China and the Malacca Straits, shifts in population became inevitable and many from the south of China became permanent citizens of Southern Malaya.

These conservative Chinese communities, now remote from China, were to evolve into a unique society over the ensuing centuries. Known in Malay as Peranakan, meaning, descendants, they held fast to their ethnic and religious traditions, which was ancestor worship, but adopted the language and much of the culture of the Malays.

Historically, these Malay Straits kingdoms, so important to trade, were effectively occupied and colonised over a period of 400 years, first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally, the British, who established the modern state of Singapore in 1819.

Throughout the period of British colonisation, the Nyonya communities did well, being favoured by the British administration for their administrative skills and their loyalty to the British crown.

This new wealth provided communities to add to their unique customs and traditions with some very specific tastes and styles. Already established with a unique cuisine, costume, architecture, language, song and dance, paramount among these is the famous Nyonya porcelain, the earliest, being produced in the first years of the 19th century.  

  

Nyonya ware is the term used to describe the distinctive, brightly coloured porcelains commissioned for the exclusive use of the Straits Chinese communities.

Nyonya porcelain is entirely different, with no reference to any other class of Chinese porcelain produced.  It is distinguished by a relatively small range of robust colours and a preference for a predominant decoration, the phoenix and the peony.  

© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2019

Posted in Nyonya Lamps

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